READING, Pa. – Funny Car racer Jack Beckman has a strong historical knowledge of the NHRA and those who paved the way for the current racers. Names of his heroes can be found often adorning his helmet as he streaks down the track at the controls of his 8,000-horsepower Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger Funny Car.
When the NHRA returns to scenic Maple Grove Raceway Oct. 3-6 for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals, he will attempt to become a two-time winner at the fan-friendly Pennsylvania track that has been hosting events on the NHRA circuit since 1985.
Beckman raced to victory at the venerable facility in 2008 when he defeated Frank Hawley and joined a prominent list of past winners in the Funny Car category, which includes Mark Oswald, Kenny Bernstein, Gary Scelzi and Dean Skuza, among others. Beckman knows any win in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is notable and puts him in elite company.
“Funny Cars in the '70s were the coolest things on any racetrack," Beckman said. "Crazy paint jobs, the cars had names, they were all for show ... dry hops, long smoky burnouts. There were crazy with flames out of the (header) pipes. To get a chance to drive one that is competitive is beyond my dreams, and to get to go to the places I read about as a kid like in the Chicago area, at Englishtown and Maple Grove is beyond words. It’s like a baseball player getting a chance to play in the big leagues and going to play at the stadiums where Babe Ruth played.”
Last season, Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), V. Gaines (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) earned victories at the race that will once again be televised on ESPN News, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD.
The Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals is the fourth of six playoff races in the Countdown to the Championship and winning rounds is paramount to securing a championship. Beckman, the 2012 Funny Car world champion, has raced to at least one victory in each season since 2006, a streak of six seasons, but he hasn’t yet recorded a victory in 2013. Beckman is third in points, has three runner-up finishes, including the most recent event in St. Louis, and knows winning rounds are at a premium.
“It’s nail-biting time in everyone’s mind," Beckman said. "You have got to race perfectly from here on; it has to be error free. We were several rounds out of the lead when we started the Countdown in fifth place and the cars in front of us have been running tremendously. We have to get around them and that is a function of getting paired up against them on Sunday and then eliminating them. That’s not just a 20-point gain, but a 40-point swing.”
Maple Grove Raceway is known for incredible racing conditions and fans in attendance will watch jaw-dropping numbers go up on the scoreboards with each lap. Currently five of the eight national records were recorded at Maple Grove Raceway as conditions this time of the year are usually favorable for amazing performances in all four NHRA classes.
“The Pro Stock bikes and cars are slaves to weather,” Beckman concluded. “At Maple Grove, you can get high pressure, low temperature, low humidity and high oxygen content. That makes good power for them. For the nitro cars, the weather affects our horsepower, but more importantly we are slaves to the track. When the track temperature is down in the low 80s and the track surface is good we can give almost all the power it will handle out there. That’s what we do in the nitro categories.”
For Beckman to win he will have to outlast a field of tough Funny Car competitors including current points leader Matt Hagan, recent winner and 15-time world champion John Force, surging Robert Hight, two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon and teammate Ron Capps.
Shawn Langdon took sole possession of the points lead in Top Fuel following a No. 1 qualifying position in St. Louis and a pair of early race exits by Doug Kalitta and Spencer Massey. Defending Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown raced to victory at the most recent event and made a move to sixth in points to revive his bid to secure his second championship title.
This season’s best in Pro Stock has been Mike Edwards, but the Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro driver has yet to claim a win at Maple Grove, his best outings there have resulted in two runner-up finishes. Former Maple Grove champs Jeg Coughlin and Jason Line are close behind in second and third and will challenge the for the win. Erica Enders-Stevens recorded her second win of the season in St. Louis, jumped to fourth in points and will continue her quest for the championship.
Matt Smith took over the points lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle for the first time this season on the strength of his second win of the season. Hector Arana Jr. and Hector Arana Sr. are tied for second place, 75 points back and will look to retake the series lead. Michael Ray, Eddie Krawiec and John Hall also will be battling for the event win.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will also thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense competition on the track.
As always, every ticket purchased for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals is a pit pass, which offers an extraordinary look behind the scenes in the world of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their race machines between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans will also want to check out NHRA Nitro Alley and the popular NHRA Manufacturers Midway where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and freebies.
The Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals qualifying opens on Friday, Oct. 4, with sessions at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Oct. 5, at 11:15 a.m. and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6.
For tickets and other great ticket offers for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals, please call Maple Grove Raceway at (610) 856-9200 or visit www.maplegroveraceway.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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AUTO-PLUS® NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 29th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals, the 22nd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the fourth of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Maple Grove Raceway, Mohnton, Pa. Track is located off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Exit 298), 10 miles south of Reading, Pa.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 3-6
THURSDAY, Oct. 3 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, Oct. 4 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 5 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 3 p.m.
SUNDAY, Oct. 6 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 5, ESPN News will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 11:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 6, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 3:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 6, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Oct. 4, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Saturday, Oct. 5, 6 - 6:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Sunday, Oct. 6, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
(3720 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Khalid alBalooshi, Top Fuel; Mike Neff, Funny Car; V Gaines, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Tony Schumacher, TF, 4; John Force, FC, 6; Warren Johnson, PS, 4; Angelle Sampey, PSM, 6.
Top Fuel - 3.701 seconds by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12; 334.15 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. ’12
Funny Car - 3.986 seconds by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12; 321.81 mph by Robert Hight, Oct. ’12
Pro Stock - 6.477 seconds by Jason Line, Oct. ’11; 214.35 mph by Line, Oct. ’12
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.728 seconds by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12; 198.73 mph by Hines, Oct. ’12
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call (610) 856-7200. Tickets also are available at www.maplegroveraceway.com.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 21st of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the third of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship -
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 2,317; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,284; 3. Spencer Massey, 2,282; 4. Morgan Lucas, 2,272; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,245; 6. Antron Brown, 2,215; 7. Clay Millican, 2,198; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 2,192; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 2,134; 10. Steve Torrence, 2,115.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 2,336; 2. John Force, 2,330; 3. Jack Beckman, 2,292; 4. Robert Hight, 2,288; 5. Cruz Pedregon, 2,253; 6. Ron Capps, 2,225; 7. Courtney Force, 2,202; 8. Johnny Gray, 2,187; 9. (tie) Tim Wilkerson, 2,142; Del Worsham, 2,142.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 2,326; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 2,316; 3. Jason Line, 2,296; 4. Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,266; 5. Shane Gray, 2,261; 6. Allen Johnson, 2,257; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,188; 8. V. Gaines, 2,185; 9. Vincent Nobile, 2,162; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 2,073.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Matt Smith, 2,369; 2. (tie) Hector Arana, 2,294; Hector Arana Jr, 2,294; 4. Michael Ray, 2,277; 5. Eddie Krawiec, 2,253; 6. LE Tonglet, 2,226; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,224; 8. John Hall, 2,183; 9. Adam Arana, 2,123; 10. Shawn Gann, 2,093.